90.5 WESA's 'Good Question' Series

We're starting something new at 90.5 WESA. It's an experiment where you bring us questions—and we go out to investigate and find answers.

So: What have you always wondered about Pittsburgh? Are you curious how your neighborhood originally received its name? Or maybe why the Mon and Allegheny Rivers are different colors when they merge at the Point? Or maybe you've always wanted to know what happened to all of our street cars and inclines? From serious to silly, we're here to help.

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Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA

Terry Grantz stood on a swaying dock, pointing to a massive, off-white concrete block. He’s the manager of Lockwall One Marina, a private facility in the Strip District below the Cork Factory Lofts.

“When you come down into the area, you can see from the water, you can see the original wall,” Grantz said, gesturing to the submerged block. It looks old, but solid.

Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA

Walking down Fourth Avenue in downtown Pittsburgh, it might feel like you’re being watched. And you are.

There are about a dozen pairs of eyes glaring down at the street. They’re made of gray and brown stone, some with intricate carved manes. Lions are a common sight on this stretch of downtown, and they have a very important job: to guard.

Dick Daniels / Carolina Birds

The Highland Park Bridge is noisy—traffic speeds by as barges pass through the nearby lock and a train rattles underneath. But in the past few years, a new, natural sound has joined the orchestra of automobiles and industry: gulls. To be more specific: Herring gulls.

Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA

Across the street from the Trolley Stop Inn on Library Road in Bethel Park, there’s a sign. It’s white and rectangular, the lettering is fading a bit, and on the leftmost side is a large orange dot. It’s nearly the size of a basketball and the label boldly proclaims: Orange Belt.

Margaret Sun / 90.5 WESA

Next to steel and Super Bowl championships, Pittsburgh is synonymous with three rivers. In the summer, the Three Rivers Arts Festival dominates downtown and the moniker is part of a number of companies in the region -- not to mention there used to be a stadium that bore the name.

But does the city technically have three distinct rivers?

Gene J. Puskar / AP

Pittsburghers have long been fascinated with the mysterious, underground “fourth river.” As much as they gush about the three visible rivers, they’re often eager to tell you about the secret waterway beneath the Golden Triangle.

Niven Sabherwal / 90.5 WESA

When attorney Joe Froetschel commutes to work on his bicycle, he thinks about how the city operations work and where the money comes from. As he rides through Oakland,  he notices hospitals like UPMC and University of Pittsburgh buildings that dot the neighborhood. He's also surrounded by churches and charities and the Carnegie museums.

Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh collection

When Emily Eckel moved to Knoxville, a neighborhood south of downtown Pittsburgh, she was told to buy special subsidence insurance, just in case the abandoned coal mine beneath her house ever caved in. She'd never heard of it.

“I just started imagining this vast maze of coal mines under the city," she said. "I was picturing coal miners going in with a pickaxe or a shovel and a yellow canary and a cage and mining all day. I don’t know if it was like that, and I would like to know.” 

It was not exactly like that, at least not in Pittsburgh.

Megan Harris / 90.5 WESA

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. It was the age of steel, it was the age of annexation.

On any Pittsburgh city map, there is an unlabeled stretch of land between the neighborhoods of Mt. Oliver and Knoxville.